Tis the season to rack your brain trying to come up with gift ideas for your loved ones. If you’re hoping that 2018 will bring more peace and good health, consider these gift ideas:
Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter
Call it Lumberjack Therapy. There is something very peaceful and rewarding about spending time outdoors splitting wood. Heave this solid axe in the air and bring it down hard to crack and split large logs. After a few minutes, you’ll need to remove your coat, as splitting wood is great exercise, which helps to burn off stress hormones in your body. After a little bit of practice, you’ll feel proud of your ability produce a satisfyingly tidy pile of wood. Splitting wood gives you solitude, time in nature, productivity and exercise all in one. The particular axe listed above, and similar axes like the Finnish Leveraxe, make wood splitting much easier and, thus, more accessible to those of us without burly lumberjack physiques. Of course, if your loved one does have a burly lumberjack physique, you may be able to get by with a less expensive model.
Massage Gift Certificate
Say all you want about the benefits of psychotherapy, a good massage can be just as beneficial. Besides, it’s just not appropriate to give a loved one a gift certificate for psychotherapy. Even if they could use it. Instead, give your loved one the gift of a relaxing massage. If a massage isn’t in your budget, consider getting gift certificates from a beauty school, where discounted massage is available.
A Good Read
Winter is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. And, what’s better than a good book with a good message? Give your loved one the gift of inspiration and hope in the form of a book about Paul Farmer, a doctor who is working to cure our global health system. While you’re at it, donate in your loved one’s name to Farmer’s world-changing organization, Partners In Health.
Cell Phone Cozy
There isn’t much worse for your mental health than your own cell phone. Cell phones bring the stress of work, world events and internet trolls into every moment of your day. Buy your loved ones one of these cute, made in America, crocheted owls to cover their phone. Then, hide their phone so they can’t locate it again.
Yes, that’s right, the gift of nothing could be the very best thing to give your loved ones in 2017. If you’re like many Americans, you, and your loved ones, have all your basic needs met. So, just give your loved ones a hug, play a game of cards with them or do their dishes. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, give to those less fortunate, both here and abroad.
I used to view the month of January as a nemesis. I viewed it as a cold, dark month bereft of any good holidays or other redeeming features. When the calendar would roll around to the month, I'd grit my teeth and tell myself that, once the month was over, I'd gotten past the worst of winter. At best, I viewed it as a challenge to be overcome.
Several years ago, I decided that I'd had enough of hating January. I decided to shift my thinking about it. After all, the hours of sunlight are increasing all month. For that reason, I labeled January as the start of "very early spring." I began to use the month to do a deep "spring cleaning" and rearranged my home. Once I was done with that, I treated myself to pouring over seed catologs and planning my garden. Before I knew it, January was starting to grow on me. I began to look forward to the month. Now, it feels like this great opportunity to get a fresh start and an early jump on spring.
What's your least favorite month? Can you think of a way to reframe it? Or, at least, better ways to care for yourself during that month? Some ideas:
1) Make a list of projects to save for that month (e.g. reorganizing the attic, refinishing a piece of furniture, going through closets for items to donate.)
2) Find ways to keep your body moving, regardless of the weather. Exercise is an essential part of good mental health. Think about joining a gym or buying some exercise equipment for home.
3) Find positive associations for the month. Maybe you love reading. Make yourself a cozy reading spot and a list of books to read. Buy some tea or snacks. If you're a gardener, like me, sign up to get some new seed catologs. No interests coming to mind? Maybe you could use the month to start a new hobby. Consider trying my husband's 28 day challenge.
4) Get outdoors. This is a hard one, but a little time in nature does a lot of good. It's easy to talk yourself out of going for a walk if you're not properly dressed for the weather. Invest in some clothes that work for your hard month.
5) Practice self-acceptance. You may not totally succeed in finding a way to enjoy your tough month. You may fall short of your goals for exercise or getting outdoors. That's okay. Criticizing yourself will only make you less likely to succeed. Instead, revise your goals and re-dedicate yourself to good self-care.
For some, seasonal changes trigger more than the blues or irritabilty. If seasonal changes trigger moderate to severe mood or anxiety issues for you, please seek help from a mental health professional. Anniversaries of loss and trauma can contribute to this. Working with a therapist can help you understand your seasonal triggers and better overcome them.
A study that was presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologist's Annual Meeting last month has been widely promoted as linking the use of epidural anesthesia to a lowered risk of postpartum depression. The idea that opting for an epidural could reduce the risk of a serious postpartum complication is an appealing one. Unfortunately, as with many popular reports of scientific findings, secondary sources have put an inaccurate spin on the findings.
In this study, only women who received epidurals were included. The amount of pain relief provided by the epidural was related to postpartum depression scores on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS.) The study showed that women who got significant pain relief were less likely to have an elevated EPDS score than women who got less relief from their epidural. What this study suggests is the effectiveness of the epidural is inversely correlated with postpartum depression scores (i.e. better pain relief, less depression.) This makes sense. If a woman is in enough pain to request an epidural, and does not get good pain relief from it, it is likely that she will experience one of the major risk factors for postpartum depression: an emotionally traumatic birth. Rather than suggesting that epidurals reduce the risk of postpartum depression, we could say this study suggests that failed epidurals increase the risk of postpartum depression.
What this study does not show is that getting an epidural is going to reduce your likelihood of postpartum depression. Why? Because the study was limited only to women who got an epidural, excluding those who chose an unmedicated birth. Another, larger study found the opposite association: women who got an epidural had a higher likelihood of postpartum depression than women who did not.
What's a mother to believe? The issue is that it is very difficult for us to study the impact of epidurals. The gold standard of research, the randomized study, would not appeal to many women. Nor would it be particularly ethical or safe. So, when we look at epidural use, we face a number of confounds in the research. Women who seek an epidural may have pre-existing conditions or labor complications that are absent in women who have unmedicated births. Because of this, we can't be completely sure if outcomes associated with epidural anesthesia are due to the anestheisa itself or to another condition.
So, what should women know about getting an epidural? Simply, epidurals have risks and benefits. The risks include longer labor, more cesarean births and greater risk of perineal laceration (a.k.a. tearing your lady parts.) You can end up with an epidural that doesn't work, or only works on one side. You have a small (1.5%) chance of developing headaches due to an accidental misplacement of the injection. It is certain that use of an epidural impairs mobility during labor, making it harder to get in an ideal position for birth. Epidurals also impair mobility after labor, making it harder to parent in those early hours of motherhood. The benefits of epidurals are obvious: pain relief & the ability to rest. The reduction or elimination of pain during childbirth is an important choice for women to have, especially when used wisely (i.e. later in labor and when other methods of pain relief have been exhausted.)
Working with pregnant and postpartum women, I often hear feelings of disappointment, even shame, about the use of an epidural during labor. What every woman needs to know: labor and childbirth are not designed as a test of your strength or determination. They are, simply, a way to deliver your child into your arms. Surround yourself with people who support the birth you want. Prepare yourself to have the healthiest birth you can. Make peace with the birth you have. If you find yourself having trouble processing your feelings about childbirth, find someone you trust to talk to about this. Postpartum Support International can help you find a professional or support group near you.
Sarah L. Wesch, Ph.D.